It consisted of 18 players, a trip to Spain, and games against some of the best youth academies in the world. It added up to a memory that will last a lifetime.
The 2012 id2 National Selection International Tour wrapped up its annual trip to Europe on February 27 after spending a week and a half in Spain.
“Pretty much everything you could ask for from a ten-day trip,” id2 tour head coach Gerry McKeown told TopDrawerSoccer.com last week about the success of the tour.
The id2 program is set up to identify players through camps and other programs in order to take some of the best boys youth soccer players in the United States to Europe. This year’s tour included players born in 1998 and 1999.
The highlight from the trip came only a few days into the Spanish adventure when McKeown’s group took on the world-renowned FC Barcelona youth team.
The first time McKeown gets the full group together is when all of them meet in Spain, so the practice time is obviously limited for his group. He was happy with how quickly it came together, especially while implementing a 4-3-3 formation of his own for the team.
“We aren’t going to do what Bayer Leverkusen did the week before in Champions League.” McKeown said about what he told the boys before the game against Barcelona. “You can respect them, but you have to outwork them and out-pass them.”
Behind a hat trick from Elijah Rice, the id2 national selection tour won 3-1 over FC Barcelona.
“They played as good of a game as possible,” McKeown said. “Our strikers gave them some problems at times, as well as Christian Pulisic coming through the middle. He was actually better than their guy [in the same midfield role].”
After the game, McKeown was surprised by his team’s reaction.
“We went in the locker room, and they were quiet,” McKeown said. “I came in late, and I asked them, ‘do you know what you accomplished?’
“This was something special. All the humility is an important part of the game, but now you accomplished something not many teams do – they got it going after that.”
It may have taken a while for the significance of the experience to set in, but eventually the players realized how monumental the occasion was.
“I’ll remember that forever,” Rice told TopDrawerSoccer.com recently about the hat trick against Barcelona.
Overall, he really enjoyed the experience with the tour, as the star striker from Chicago Magic PSG is now looking forward to leading his club at Dallas Cup in a few weeks.
“That was incredible,” Rice said about the tour. “It was one of the best experiences in my life.”
McKeown was very impressed with how Rice performed during the games, and also how he continued to advance his game when defenders started to figure out his game.
“Elijah played well,” McKeown said. “He, like a bunch of other guys, came around as the week progressed. We had him leading the line to defend and he became a real leader especially vocally. He did a lot of things and added to his game.”
Midfielder Christian Pulisic also had a very good showing during the tour.
“The last month has been a busy month and I’ve had a lot of fun,” Pulisic told TopDrawerSoccer.com “I’ve got some great experiences and it will help me a lot in my future career.”
The coach was thoroughly pleased with how the attacking midfielder performed during the tour.
“[Pulisic] was exceptional,” McKeown said. “We were asking Christian to help defensively and he did that. If he can add that to his game, he is going to be an extra special player because he some very unique talent going forward.”
The coach also highlighted goalkeeper Kevin Silva who did well with distribution as well as making athletic saves against Barcelona.
The future of the tour continues to look bright, as McKeown says more attention is being paid to the program now.
“We think it is getting better and hope it continues to do so,” McKeown said. “We hope to reach markets that are unique and different including inner-city communities.”J.R. Eskilson is a staff reporter at TopDrawerSoccer.com. Follow him on or send him an email.